Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A New Dawn in Beaverton

I packed my SB-800 strobes and remote Pocket Wizards to shoot a game at Beaverton High School last week. When I walked into the Beaverton gym, I couldn't believe my eyes.

Beaverton opened its doors to students in 1902. It is the oldest school in the Beaverton School District...the oldest in the Metro League. It has been through several remodels over the years; the facilities are a mixture of historic and modern. Despite its age, the gym did not lay claim to having the worst lighting in the district...ironically, the District's newest school, Southridge, holds that honor. Beaverton has a low ceiling, and I have had some luck bouncing my strobes off the ceiling to add just enough light to capture the action, but not so much as to give the photos a heavy flash look. That was to be the plan de jour. However, when I walked into the gym with its newly installed lighting, I first instinctively reached for my sunglasses, then I put aside my strobes and enjoyed shooting under the best lighting in the Metro League.

Metro League rival, Jesuit High School, also installed new lighting this year, greatly improving its dungeon-like gym lighting. So come on Southridge, shine some light on that back-to-back state championship girls basketball team.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Pre-season Games Don't Count - Or Do They?

Pre-season is all about preparation. It's about getting your game together. It's an opportunity to experiment before "it counts." The Battle Ground, Washington Tigers ventured across the Columbia River to challenge the Southridge Skyhawks of Beaverton, Oregon in a pre-season match-up in early January only to loose 63-52. It's now week two for the 4A Greater St. Helens League leader as Battle Ground is off to a 4-0 start. Overall however, the Tigers are 9-5. Taking some risks by scheduling a few non-league teams from Oregon and Washington, Battle Ground took their lumps. Currently the Tigers sit on top of the league table. Non-league games don't count in the quest for a state title when all the wins and losses are totaled up, yet experience adds up in a big way. Daring to take risks and challenging tough teams is what does count in the long run. Time will tell to see if Battle Ground's willingness to take on strong competition in pre-season will help them come playoff time.

The Davids Pin the Goliaths

It wasn't supposed to have been a real close match. After all, number seven ranked Westview was a pre-season pick to battle powerhouse Southridge for the top of the Metro League table. Beaverton was beginning a "rebuilding" year. Beaver coach Tony Salts was quoted in the Beaverton Valley Times 2007 wrestling preview stating, "We're looking forward to a pretty good season."

The Beavers' hope for a pretty good season got off to a pretty good start by upsetting Westview 38-34 in a contest that came down to the final match where Beaverton's 285 pound anchor Richie Riggs pinned Westview's Eric Perry. The match started off in Westview's favor as they quickly jumped out to a 28-0 lead. But the Beaverton middle weights scrapped their way back into the match and the heavy weights closed the deal. As the referee's hand slammed to the mat signifying Riggs' pin, the Beavers erupted in celebration. Unfortunately, coach Salts was not able to be at the match to share his team's joy as he had to miss his first match in 15 years to be with his seriously ill daughter. His team wished he could have been with them to celebrate, but they understood what was most important that day.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Skyview Clips Hawks' Wings

How do you beat a team that smothers you in defense? You smother them right back!

Skyview High School girls basketball team of Vancouver, Washington shocked second-ranked Southridge High School of Beaverton, Oregon by defeating the Skyhawks on their own court 55-52 in OT during a non-conference game for both schools. Southridge has been known for their tumultuous full-court pressure defense that has melted opponents and has been a critical aspect to winning their recent two straight OSAA State Championship titles. When Skyview came out with a similar pressure defense, it neutralized the Skyhawk offense enough for Skyview to stay within a few points of the Hawks the entire game. A last second layup at the buzzer by Skyview's Catherine Cloakey after a missed
desperation shot by Dayle Powell sent the contest into overtime, where Skyview capitalized on a couple breaks and got a five point lead nearing the end of OT. Southridge was forced to foul in an attempt to try and catch up, but solid freethrow shooting allowed Skyview to claim the upset. This was a game where defense outshined the offense and was the key to bringing one of Oregon's top-ranked teams down for a rough landing.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The 2006 Schwab

The eleventh annual running of the Les Schwab Invitational High School Basketball Tournament served up a king's buffet of basketball talent and excitement to packed crowds in the Liberty High School gym in Hillsboro, Oregon during the final week of December. The tournament field included some of the top talent in the nation as Oregon has been blessed with two of the best players in the nation with Kyle Singler of South Medford and Kevin Love of Lake Oswego who were billed as top draws for the tournament. With visiting teams from Oak Hill out of Virginia, Wheeler High from Georgia and Mountain View of Arizona joining the field of 16 teams, the Schwab was a showcase of for some of high school basketball's elite.

Oak Hill won their fourth Les Schwab title as they defeted South Medford 99-90 in a nationally televised game on ESPN-U. The game featured amazing performances from Oak Hills' Brandon Jennings and Nolan Smith and South Medford's Kyle Singler and Michael Harthun. Oak Hill took control of the game early, but South Medford clawed it's way back in the fourth quarter to make a run at the nation's number one ranked team, only to succumb after failing to close the gap tighter than five points. One other feature game included a match-up between Singler and Love when South Medford staked it's claim to a number one ranking in Oregon by defeating Lake Oswego 71-63 before a sold-out crowd in the semi-finals.

The Schwab is a special gift to basketball aficionados in Oregon. Each year fans have been treated to great play, exciting games and a chance to see rising stars play in the prime of their youth.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Two Thrillers and One Definitive Statement

The 2006 OSAA Football Championships held at Autzen Stadium on the campus of the University of Oregon during the second weekend of December included the top three divisions of the new six-division format for high school athletics in Oregon. While the league re-alignment continues to be a topic stirring debates, there was no arguing that it helped produce some great competition in the new 4A and 5A levels. Each of the 4A and 5A championship games went into overtime and concluded in thrilling fashion.

Siuslaw and Sisters settled their 4A championship game in a single overtime period as Siuslaw was able to score on a Kody Thrall touchdown and successfully stopped the league's leading rusher, Sister's Cory McCaffrey, on a fourth down play to win the school's first title in 25 years by a score of 21-14. Corvallis and West Albany took three overtime periods to settle their score, as Corvallis kicker Wade Penner made good on a second chance to win the game with a 29 yard field goal after missing a 37 yard attempt in the first overtime period, giving the Spartans a 17-14 edge over their local rival.

At the 6A level, the Jesuit Crusaders blew out league rival Southridge 56-7 to start a debate as to whether this year's team is Oregon's best high school football team of all time. As fans and journalists compare the '06 Crusaders to great Oregon teams of the past, all that interested coach Ken Potter and his team was proving to themselves that they had what it took to play "the perfect game." Meeting with his team in the endzone during their traditional post-game chat, coach Potter thanked his team for their dedication and effort throughout the season, for he believed that their quest for the Holy Grail was complete...He stated that the Crusaders had played that perfect game they were seaking.

More OSAA Football Championship photos.